Finding your first GP work experience placement as a prospective medical student is often a challenge, but there are steps that can be taken to make this space less difficult to navigate.
Differentiating yourself from other eager students and demonstrating your enthusiasm and potential can often make you stand out to healthcare professionals and make finding experience much easier. Here is some advice to make your journey easier and more enjoyable!
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As many GP services are already oversubscribed, starting early ensures you will receive a response in a time period adequate for you to either start placement or find another before applying for UCAS. The earlier the better- looking for a GP placement from the summer of Year 11 onward is recommended.
More often than not, there will be other students in your school or medical applicants that have applied for GP work experience successfully. Using the close point of contacts you have is advantageous, as you can learn which GPs are more inclined to reply quickly or accept work experience, and they may favour you as they have worked harmoniously with students from your school before. Your teachers may potentially put in a good word too.
A cover letter will make you distinguishable from other prospective medical students as it is a chance to express exactly why you would like this placement and why you should be chosen as opposed to another student for a placement that may be oversubscribed. It is an appropriate opportunity to express your enthusiasm, passion for medicine, maturity and any other skills.
Use the internet and NHS UK to find the GPs located in your local area. As not all services will reply, it is favourable to apply for as many as possible. You can also apply for GPs outside of your area which are accessible to you or a reasonable distance.
Whilst researching these GP services, the email address of the practice should be included on the website. The email addresses of staff members (Doctors and Nurses) at the GP practice are sometimes included on the website or can be found on NHS UK. Contacting them directly and including your cover letter will also boost your chances.
Calling GPs or going in directly (with your cover letter) is another way of expressing your enthusiasm and making an impression. This is advisable if your email has not been responded to within 2 weeks, alternatively, you can send another email as it may have been accidentally missed by a staff member.
Using platforms such as Linkedin or Twitter to contact local Doctors and Nurses is another way of making an impression. You can also use these platforms to find local medical students or Alumni Medical students from your school who may be able to advise you on locations to seek placement.
If you have tried all these steps and still not been successful in finding a placement, it is important to ask GP Practices for feedback or advice on alternative places and ways they think you can find experience, to make your next attempt easier. Another way of boosting your suitability as a candidate is to try finding experience in other Healthcare settings – this can include but is not limited to; hospitals, opticians, pharmacies and care homes.
Finally, remember that medicine is competitive and consequently, finding work experience may a slow process for you but it is not impossible. Be patient! Other candidates have also struggled and eventually found the right fit. When you do eventually find your placement be sure to keep a diary and document your experience. Good luck!
Words: Kate Okello
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